A longtail boat – its bow decorated with colourful ribbons for spiritual protection – powers through the water. In the sapphire-blue skies above, sea eagles effortlessly ride the thermals. In the distance, limestone mountains rise above the water. It’s a quintessential Krabi scene that anybody who has travelled to the beaches or islands in this region will be familiar with. But the destination today isn’t known to most tourists. I’m heading to the island of Ko Klang.
Welcome to Ko Klang
Located a short 10-minute boat ride away from Krabi Town, Ko Klang is hidden in plain sight. Many of the tourists, Thai and foreign, who pause for selfies at the giant crab sculpture in Krabi Town may not even be aware that an entire community thrives on the other side of the river beyond the mangroves.
With a population of around 5,000 people and covering an area of approximately 26 sq km (10 sq miles), Ko Klang makes for an excellent excursion from Krabi Town or Ao Nang. This rural island is characterised by mangroves and rice fields and offers a very different experience to the other islands in Krabi province. This is not an island of sandy beaches with luxury hotels and Instagram-perfect spots. Instead, Ko Klang offers something more meaningful; an opportunity to enjoy southern Thai hospitality and experience local culture on an island where farming and fishing are the mainstays of the local economy.
What to see and do on Ko Klang
If you’re visiting Ko Klang independently, the best option on arrival is to take a tour with one of the island’s taxis which come in the form of a motorbike with sidecar. There are no cars on Ko Klang and these local taxis are the most convenient way to get around. You can also hire bicycles on arrival, but if you are visiting Ko Klang for the first time you’ll get to see and do more with the motorised taxi tour.
The round-trip tours are a set price (from Talay Pier on Ko Klang it’s 300 Baht for one person/400 baht for a couple) so there is no need to haggle. And with no cars on the island, there is no need to worry about traffic either. Simply relax as your driver takes you along quiet lanes through the picturesque countryside.
The island tours include stops at a number of different communities where you can learn more about Ko Klang’s arts and crafts and shop for local products.
Community-based tourism (CBT) is of mutual benefit to travellers and the local community. This form of responsible tourism allows you to be welcomed as a guest and experience the local culture and way of life without intruding. In return, the host community can interact with travellers who want to learn more about them and their way of life. This in turn helps to encourage the younger members of the local community to maintain the traditions of their parents and grand-parents.
Batik is a traditional art form using wax and dyes to produce colourful patterns on fabrics. The technique was brought to Ko Klang by the original Muslim settlers from Malaysia and remains an important part of local culture. Travelling around Ko Klang you may notice women wearing batik dresses and sarongs, and batik fabric decorating homes. Informal batik workshops allow visitors to learn more about the art form and you can also try your hand at making your own batik creation to take home as a souvenir.
Stingless bees and honey
Communities in Ko Klang have recently embraced the many benefits of stingless bees. This variety of bee is one of the biggest pollinators of the mangrove forest and consequently plays a vital role in the local ecosystem. Although they produce less honey than their better-known cousins, the honey that is produced by these stingless bees is reported to have additional medicinal qualities and is more valuable.
Visitors to Ko Klang can learn more about these humble creatures and the honey production process. With the different blends and ages of honey, there are similarities to whisky tasting and it all makes for a fascinating visit.
Rice farming is integral to life on Ko Klang. Along with Phatthalung province, Ko Klang is the only area of Thailand to successfully grow significant quantities of the ‘sang yod’ rice strain. With its distinctive reddish colour and high nutritional value, sang yod rice is eaten locally and also sold for export. Learn more about the rice production process while you travel around the island and visit the different villages.
The sea has always been a part of Krabi life and that is true too on Ko Klang where you can learn about the history of Krabi’s iconic ruea hua tong (tall-bow boat). Model boat-making workshops are organised as part of the village tour and the keyrings with the miniature boats made locally are ideal souvenirs that won’t take up any room in your luggage.
Tour the mangroves by boat
Take a tour of the mangroves to get up close and personal with this vital part of the ecosystem. The mangroves form a natural barrier that helps protect the island from the sea and from erosion. The mangroves also act as a nursery for a number of species including crab, turtles, shrimp and fish. A boat ride through the mangroves isn’t part of the standard island tour, but can be arranged via the boatmen on Ko Klang or in Krabi Town.
Bird watching and fishing
If you plan to spend a night or two on Ko Klang, this opens up the opportunity to go bird-watching or you can literally get your hands dirty as you join with local fishermen to dig for clams at low tide or go shrimp fishing.
Baan Ma Ying restaurant
The name Baan Ma Ying translates as ‘Granny’s House’ and it’s an apt name for this friendly and welcoming restaurant. If you’re a seafood lover, it’s worth making the boat trip across to Ko Klang just to dine here. The floating restaurant serves up freshly caught seafood with signature dishes including crab, shrimp, lobster and sea bass.
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Respect the local community
Ko Klang is a conservative island with a majority Muslim population. The islanders are friendly and welcoming, but please respect the traditions and customs of the local people. There are some simple do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:
- Dress modestly and refrain from public displays of intimacy with your partner
- Don’t bring alcohol or drugs to the island
- No pork
- No dogs
Where to stay on Ko Klang
Of the tourists who do venture to Ko Klang, most visit on a day trip from Krabi Town or the beach resorts of Krabi. But if you’d like to stay longer, that is also possible with the island hosting a number of homestays. However, there is little information available online in English and booking in advance isn’t straight-forward. Amongst the places that do offer homestays, Kidthung Cottage can be contacted via Facebook here.
If you like the idea of staying on Ko Klang, but would prefer more comfort there is one hotel on the island, the aptly named Islanda Hideaway. Following renovation, the hotel will reopen in October 2023.
How to get to Ko Klang
If you’d like to visit Ko Klang independently, you can get there by longtail boat from two passenger piers in Krabi Town:
- Chao Fah Pier
- Suan Thara (Thara Park) Pier
The pier with the most frequent services to and from the island is Suan Thara Pier. Journeys take around 10 minutes to Talay Pier on Ko Klang and cost 10 Baht per person each way. Boatmen will normally wait until they have at least 10 passengers. If you want to rent the boat privately, you will probably be quoted between 50-100 Baht.
If you just want to visit Baan Ma Ying restaurant, taking a boat from Chao Fah Pier is usually the more convenient option.
If you’d like to hire a longtail privately, the boatmen can show you a suggested itinerary which, in addition to visiting Ko Klang, can include a tour of the mangroves and a gentle cruise out to the twin limestone mountains of Khao Khanab Nam.
If you’re staying at Islanda Hideaway, you can follow the steps above and on arrival on Ko Klang take a motorbike and sidecar (200 Baht from Talay Pier during daytime/300 Baht at night). This is the easiest option from Krabi Town or Ao Nang. If you’re travelling directly from Krabi airport, you could travel to Krabi Boat Lagoon and then take a boat across to Ko Klang from there.